On paper, speculating that a team that sits 4.5 games up in their division and posts the best record in the American League, wouldn’t need an upgrade in their starting rotation. However, the team that you’re envisioning isn’t normal.
While the Kansas City Royals for right now are trendy favorites to make it back to the postseason. The major concern that has begun to unravel itself two weeks before the All-Star Break, actually was heavily apparent back in early April. When Royals’ “new star of the future” pitcher Yordano Ventura experienced continuous setbacks, which became a culmination of untimely injuries and impact frustration. This has led to Ventura’s many uphill battles in 2015, ones that have resulted in his highest SO/W rate in his career (2.57) and an inflation to his ERA, which now stands at 4.68 through 67.1 IP.
While it hasn’t helped matters that he has missed nearly 10 starts thus far, by a mere factor of not staying healthy. The pace that Ventura has accumulated from the first half of 2015, is almost a carbon copy of what the Royals starting rotation has been faced with as a whole.
Right now, the Royals starting rotation is in shambles. Not only is Ventura’s struggle to find himself is becoming problematic. But, Jason Vargas has missed more than a months’ time all together by enduring the same elbow flexor injury on June 13th that he re-aggravated back in late April to early May. Vargas’ numbers when healthy weren’t eye-opening, even when dealt with his steady 5-2 record as a starter this year. Yet, it has been anything but smooth sailing. Vargas has reached his highest ERA (4.10) since 2011. Now adding into the fact that he has yet to even hit 50 innings this year traces back to the problems of not staying healthy, which is compromised exactly for Ventura.
Basically, the Royals pitching this season has been saved off the backs of Edinson Volquez and Chris Young. Who, before the start of the season were picked up from the scrap heap by GM Dayton Moore. Volquez somehow has wound up being the team’s most consistent starter. He was projected by many to compete solely as the Royals cusp fifth arm out of the rotation.
Now, he has suddenly resurrected his career by seemingly changing his approach to batters. Instead of surrendering an assortment of home runs early in games, which was fostered by sporadic control. He has now settled down, through 95.1 innings of work, Volquez has been flawless in getting ahead and staying ahead in the count. In 2015, his 6.5 SO/9 and 2.03 SO/W rate have been the best of his career. In return, when projecting Volquez’s recent surge, one factor to consider is that he is doing this during the down years of his career, at 32.
Similar to that of Volquez, Chris Young shouldn’t be pitching at this high of a rate, but he is. Young pitches to more of contact instead of pure striking hitters out. This is a result to inducing roughly 2 double plays per game and only producing 45 strikeouts through 69.2 inning pitched. Which considering his age of 36, defies logic.
To re-iterate, the style that the Royals starting rotation has ran on this season is rather perplexing. We are now two weeks away from the half-way mark of the season and Kansas City has had dismal performances from starters Danny Duffy and Yordano Ventura. Two pitchers who coming in, were supposedly the back bone of the entire staff. Chances are that this evens out. Both Ventura and Vargas are expected to return in perhaps the second week of July. This causes problems because by brining two of their ideal starters back up, will in turn force the Royals front office to send two of their current starters, likely Joe Blanton and Chris Young down to either bullpen duties or Triple-A. Likewise, the Royals really could use a dominating #1 starter via a trade to enhance their case for another World Series run.
For now the Royals best three candidates to acquire by a trade are Johnny Cuero, Clay Buchholz, and Cole Hamels.
Here is what each pitcher offers and what needs to be done in order for one of them to land in Kansas City.
The biggest concern with Cueto is that the best the Royals can do is offer him a quality offer. Which means essentially that the Royals will use him as a rental until seasons’ end. This move is worth taking in the effect of making him the #1 starter if in deed the Royals maintain a run for the pennant.
Cueto realistically, is the best pitcher for the Royals even in the short term. Cueto’s SO/9 is 8.4, 2 full points higher than any Royals starter currently. He would provide a leadership amongst the club house that ultimately is lacking. Also, Cueto pulled out an astounding 243 innings of work last season. The way the Royals starters are going, in most cases not one starter will reach 200 inning this year in the regular season. Cueto’s durability and stability is something that can guide a plagued rotation like Kansas City’s back to prominence.
Hamels is on a Phillies team that has set their goals to the form of rebuild in the coming years. This likely will be a prime reason of him being dealt to a contender in the second half of the season. When talking about postseason contenders, the Royals fit that notion admirably.
Similar to Cueto, Hamels is another inning eater the Royals can showcase. Not known for a devastating ERA, which right now is hovering above 3. In a general sense, Hamels has matured postseason experience, which led him to World Series MVP back in 2008. If everything comes to fruition, Hamels will be a nice piece to off-set the burgeoning Ventura and seasoned Volquez in the front-end of the rotation.
Buchholz is a wild card choice by the fact that he is still trying to find himself amid a Boston Red Sox’s rotation that lacks stability. While partly, Buchholz has no control of the team’s current failures, performance wise, he still possess promise. His command of his primary pitches, being his fastball and curveball are intriguing to glance over.
Even though Buchholz maintains the highest ERA out all of the candidates (3.48). He has struggled keeping the ball out of the park inside the smaller-scaled confines of Fenway Park, which is a reason for his 6-6 record. Though, perhaps a more bigger, pitchers’ friendly ball park like Kauffman Stadium, that cuts the amount of home runs in half, into long doubles is something that can rejuvenate his average performances of late.
The Royals really only need to acquire ONE of these starters. Although, Kansas City is still in moderate shape even without claiming anyone. However, with the health of Danny Duffy at a premium, and the undetermined timetable of Kris Medlen’s major league return. Kansas City might as well carry a few more options just in case.